Dillons rivalry provokes row

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A row broke out over the actions of the receivers to the collapsed Pentos group last night as rival groups competed to buy Dillons, the bookselling chain and the defunct group's most valuable asset.

Thorn EMI, the HMV and Radio Rentals group, is widely tipped as the most likely candidate to buy Dillons in a deal worth about £50m that could be announced today.

Pentos, which also includes Rymans, the stationers, collapsed into receivership yesterday with debts of £65m after failing to secure additional funding from its bankers Barclays and Midland.

However, rival groups, including a management buyout backed by Schroder Ventures, Electra and the Prudential, have complained that they have tabled higher offers only to find that a lower offer from Thorn was as good as agreed.

Insiders say that although the management bid did include a higher headline figure of £60m, various conditions would have made the offer worth considerably less.

A spokesman for KPMG, the receivers, denied that a deal with Thorn EMI was as good as signed. "There have been several offers, including one that came in at 6pm yesterday. All offers are being considered and negotiations are continuing."

The deal would make some commercial sense for Thorn, which pulled the plug on its loss-making Rumbelows chain last month. Having enjoyed considerable success with its HMV chain of record stores, Thorn is believed to be keen to add a bookseller to its portfolio and Dillons would make an ideal fit.